I’m working on a blog post that aims to catch some of my key learnings from working with leaders and entrepreneurs over the course of 20 years. Suddenly this piece on Dee Hock’s management principles appears in one of my media feeds. I just had to capture and share it as my own learnings tie in so well with his experience.
Two things strike me after reading Hock’s principles:
- It was written 1996. It builds on his experience from building VISA in the seventies until he left. In those days reflecting on complexity and leadership must have been quite unique. Today we are increasing our awareness on something Hock identified in his work a long time ago. These principles also remind me of another early thinker in the field of leadership and complexity – Margareth Wheatley. Her book Leadership and the New Science was published 1992. What hits me hard in the head is my sense that we haven’t come very far in these 20-25 years. Or have we? Also, I increasingly worry that our young leaders still are taught the old paradigms in business school. Every day I experience that they are not being equipped for the landscape that they are set to lead in. Rather, they have to re-learn on their own.
- There is almost no reference to the outside world, i.e. the market and customers. This is utterly fascinating and I find myself asking why. Is it due to the nature of that specific business – setting up VISA in collaboration with the major banks, or is there another explanation? Once again I am reminded by another ground breaking book ”The Living Company” by Arie de Geus. In it he states that long-lived organizations focus on their own re-invention. Preserving the organization has a value in itself and most of the world’s oldest companies have changed their business ideas a number of times. So maybe Hock has a relevant point. By focusing inward on the right type of principles, the organization builds it’s capacity to adapt and continue to be relevant to customers and other external stakeholders.
”Substance is enduring, form is ephemeral.” Dee Hock
Unfortunately I belive that you are right. I was fascinated by Hock, Weathley and other authors who published – according to me – valuable ideas on complexity and management a couple of decades ago. Some business schools Rotman (Toronto), Harvard, Stanford and Yale have done some substantial changes in their curriculums. My suggestions for SSE a couple of years ago were met by the argument tha according to Financial Times (?) SSE was already among the top BS in the world, so there was no need for any reforms.
My report ”Teaching and Learning in Business Schools – The Second Crises” can be downloded from
The report is based on approx 2000 pages of critique and suggestions from > 40 different sources (books and articles).